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GSP efforts hit a wall: BD-US TRADE

Bangladesh’s efforts to regain trade privileges under generalised system of preferences for its exports to the US have hit a wall, largely due to a lack of responses from the US government.Bangladesh has twice submitted workplace safety progress reports, prepared on the basis of the Bangladesh Action Plan, to the United States Trade Representative in the hope of regaining the GSP, which was suspended in 2013.But the USTR did not respond to the commerce ministry, Bangladesh government’s negotiator for the issue, said Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, senior secretary to the ministry.“We will not submit any further report to the USTR as the US is yet to respond to our previous letter,” he said.“Bangladesh has fulfilled all conditions as per the US government’s recommendations outlined under the Bangladesh action plan. Now it is up to the US government to decide whether they would reinstate GSP,” Mamoon said.The senior secretary also said many countries have been enjoying zero-duty benefits under the American GSP scheme even with worse workplace safety and poor labour rights, but Bangladesh has been left out of the privilege even after several reviews, for unknown reason.After GSP suspension, the US provided 16 conditions under the action plan, for both the government and private entrepreneurs, especially in the garment sector, for renewal of the privileges.Bangladesh has also fulfilled the last condition, which demanded the introduction of union rights in factories inside export processing zones, Mamoon said, adding that the cabinet in February approved a draft law allowing workers to form “welfare associations”, which will act like unions in the EPZ factories. “I am hopeful that the US will respond to our progress reports as we have fulfilled all the conditions,” Mamoon said. Bangladesh has been performing well in the exports, especially in garment shipments, even after the suspension of the GSP, he said.Bangladesh’s garment exports to the US markets rose about 13 percent to $5.65 billion in 2015 compared with the previous year. “So, we are still competitive in that market,” he said. Before the suspension of the GSP, Bangladesh exported goods worth more than $26 million to the US market under the trade privilege.Bangladesh also signed the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement with the US in 2013 in the hope of regaining the GSP.